Hi all, greetings from FSL India’s Centre for Experiential Living (CEL), Kundapur!
On the 17th and 18th of July, a monthly get-together (GTG) took place in Yercaud, Tamil Nadu. Eight volunteers and four FSL-India staff members attended this GTG.
Participants visited Mundakabati village and planted saplings in a playground. They also interacted with the inhabitants. Volunteers also had a chance to have one-on-one talks with their coordinators.
July’s monthly long-term volunteers (LTV) orientation took place from the 5th of July to the 9th of July in Bangalore. Seven LTVs attended the orientation that was facilitated by ten FSL-India staff members. The volunteers hailed from France, the Netherlands, Japan and Germany.
Sarak Keamper, a long-term volunteer (LTV) from Germany has been volunteering at SINAM since September 2013. SINAM is a non-profit organization in the Tiruvannamala District working with poor and destitute children, promoting the welfare of differently abled people, underprivileged women, unorganized and marginalized labourers, widows, Dailits and people suffering from HIV/AIDS. Following is a testimonial of her thoughts and experiences.
“To empower women in India, a lot can be done. One way is to give them some knowledge they don’t get in school. Computer education is one opportunity. A lot of young women don’t have experiences with computers. What is normal for most western youngsters is something extraordinary for girls in India. A lot of families can’t afford computers or laptops and this means their children don’t know how to operate a computer. To give girls better chances for a higher education and job opportunities, computer classes are a good possibility. In a world where nothing seems to work without computers anymore it is important to make sure that also girls from poor families can gain access to this world to ensure a better future for themselves and their families.
For me, as a volunteer, is was a great experience to see young Indian girls learn how to operate a computer and help each other out when someone needs help. I was able to teach them not just how to operate a computer but also give them some background knowledge about how a computer works, the history of computers and the internet.”
Following is a testimonial about long-term volunteer (LTV) Nadine from Germany, who has been volunteering at Gnanodaya High School in Chennai. Rubini, her coordinator, writes to us about Nadine’s experiences.
“I don’t know how to start the article because I have lot to say about this volunteer Nadine. She is the most amazing volunteer that I have met in my career. Nadine did lot of good work in the project. She was working with orphan children in Chennai; she came to India for 4 month from January to April 2014. When I had spoke to her at end of her volunteering service, I really impressed by our conversation.
The first thing she said that when volunteers got the chance to go abroad, she decided to come to India after seeing very beautiful pictures on the Internet. Then she applied to come to India for 4 months. Nadine was very happy to travel to country where there were lots of tourist places. The first day she joined the project, Nadine felt that she had to start her traveling from the coming weekend onward. Then second day, Nadine planned her journey for 4 months to where and all she can go. After working with orphan children for the first three days, Nadine decided not to go traveling. She decided instead to work with orphan children for the rest of her time in India.
Nadine had complications with the children because she didn’t know the local language and the children couldn’t speak English. Then Nadine took the initiative to learn the local language. After learning basic Tamil, Nadine started to teach English to the children. There are around 126 children in Gnanodaya, but she focused on 6th, 7th & 8th grade children and taught them English, Maths and Environmental Education. She not only focused on Education, but also made all the children to have fun in the evening once they all returned from classes. She had a really nice time with the children in the project.
After three months, Nadine was so happy to see the result of her work in the project. Almost 50 children were able to communicate in English with her, and not only that… Around 80 children broke out of their shyness and took steps to speak with international people. Along with Nadine, there was another volunteer who helped Nadine to achieve her goals. Nadine is now feeling that without any help, the children can form sentences in English and speak with people. Nadine felt that she attained her objectives in the project.”
The Orientation of the 13th Happy Move Camp (scheduled between 20th – 31st July 2014) was conducted for Graduate Engineering Trainees (GETs) of Hyundai on the 8th of July in the training centre of Hyundai Motors India, Irungattukottai, Sriperumbudur Taluk, Kancheepuram District, Tamil Nadu. Three members of our Chennai team facilitated the orientation for 18 participants with the coordination of Mr. Sridhar from Hyundai.
During the session, the Chennai team introduced the vision, mission and projects of FSL-India, then introduced the Happy Move Camp:
– The schedule of the 13th HMC
– Roles and responsibilities of being a volunteer
– Field services during the camp
– Intercultural activities such as the Indo-Korean Forum, Indo-Korean Workshop, special events, historical places to visit etc.
Both counterparts, Korean and Indian, are looking forward to working towards benefiting the community.
From the 2nd of June to the 6th of June, FSL-India hosted its monthly orientation week for newly arrive long-term volunteers (LTVs). Facilitating the sessions were 11 FSL-India staff members. Six volunteers from the Czech Republic, France, Italy and Sweden took part in this orientation week.
Orientation sessions cover topics such as Expectations and Fears, Roles and Responsibilities of a Volunteer, Safety Guidelines, Indian Culture and Lifestyle and much more. The LTVs will now go on to volunteer in projects around South India doing work such as animal care and conservation, slum development and prevention of child labour/promotion of child rights.
Ruth Achterwinter is a long-term volunteer from Germany. She has been volunteering at the Rural Education and Development Society since August 2013. Following is an account of her perspective on India and the work that she does.
“It may seem strange to you, but I have lived here for 9 months and I still can’t decide how to feel about India. On the one hand, it twirls you up, bounces you around, spits you out but somehow you still come to love all its colours, varieties and of course, people. One thing I learned is not to make decisions too lightly. If you really want to get to know this huge, and in many ways contradictive country, you have to spend time here. Travelling for two or three weeks won’t let you into the deeper layers of the Indian society.
See my project for example: I work for an NGO in a really small town in Tamil Nadu. We encourage women from rural and poor backgrounds to form ‘self-help groups’. The groups not only give them security of a union, but also the space to discuss financial or general issues of the village. My NGO then connects them to a bank for the poor where they can lend micro-credits and use the money to buy things such as cows. This way they can start their own small businesses and learn how to be self-responsible, and in the end, independent.
Another volunteer and I built up the self-defense classes for girls in local schools. We teach these girls about their rights and how to react in case of. sexual harassment or domestic violence. Seeing these girls, how eager they are to learn and how willing to contribute their opinion on a new topic, I realized how important education is, which we often tend to take for granted in western Europe. I felt like my work as a volunteer is really valuable to those children. While travelling through India as a tourist you might meet some people, you’ll enjoy the food, you’ll get to visit the Taj Mahal and other incredible buildings. You see the life of Indians. What you lack is actually living it. To be part of a culture so diverse and yet intense. To wear your own Chudidars and Sarees (Indian traditional clothing). To have people you can call ‘Amma’ (Mom) and ‘Appa’ (Dad), to be yourself called ‘Akka’ (older sister). To have your first conversation with an Indian grandma in the local language (which will probably be about food, haha). To find yourself laughing because you’re finally able to understand the cultural jokes in those Bollywood movies… the list is endless.
After 9 months in India I can honestly tell that here are things I won’t ever get used to and some that I will miss incredibly after my return to Germany. What I am sure of is that India is becoming more and more of a home to me and that the people I live and work with have become family to me. In the end, even though I cannot say I love or hate India, I am very happy about my decision to come here. It’s more than a trip. It’s a life-changing experience.“
Konrad Zimare, a long-term volunteer from Germany has been volunteering at Baby Sarah’s Home in Pondicherry since September 2013. Baby Sarah’s Home is a home for diversely abled children. Following is a testimonial from Konrad about his experiences as a volunteer.
“Is it an honour or a pleasure, a challenge or maybe a lucky coincidence to have the chance to work as a volunteer in Baby Sarah’s Home? I do not know. But after having spent eight months with the children and the staff of the institution in question, I tend to see it from all the perspectives mentioned above. Anyway, the fact of which I am sure is that it is undoubtedly no pity to give at least my little contribution to the positive development of a NGO which is indeed worth being supported. I do not only feel comfortable with the ambitious aims of the director. Furthermore, I am deeply impressed with the power those children have. So, in the end I am happy to be part of the little stories of success but failure as well.
In order to give the most valuable service I can, I decided to get busy in different fields of the home. Well, I started to teach eight diversely abled children of the Secondary class, which includes lessons for activities for daily living skills, functional academics, like reading, writing and counting as well as lessons according to money and time concept. In addition to this I provided a kind of Yoga class, or more precisely some sports exercises. That guaranteed a good balance of movement of the brain and of the body.
I want to skip daily stories, which talk about serving food for the children, teaching them how to eat, bathe and dress. Those long-term processes begin in the bathroom in the morning and end in the dining hall in the evening. Even if it is hard to see a direct impact or a sudden improvement, it is a well-known fact that especially the little steps lead to great breakthroughs.
Moreover, I tried to fill gaps wherever I noticed them. And it was not only temporary help that I gave. It was, and is sustainable support. As an example: I took some children with cerebral palsy for physiotherapy to increase their amount of muscles and correct wrong positions of the knees, arms, and so on. But who takes care about those children if I am gone one day? The level which they reached would fall to the ground again and all my endeavours would have been unbelievably senseless. Because of those worries, it is very important to keep in touch with the leader of the institution. A pleasant work environment together with Karthik and Stephen made me feel needed, accepted and well appreciated. In consequence, there was the promise of bringing new volunteers before my departure, who can continue the exercises that I wrote down for them. Once, the office raises funds and has the financial means to afford it, it is even planned to get more staff for all the additional needs of the children.
In addition to this, I am also often occupied with some small projects in the meanwhile. That is not only important for the sustainable outcome of my work here. It is a proof of my will to create something helpful for the home, not only immediately but also after some time. For example, I spent one and a half weeks for listing all the materials that were not arranged and treated neatly until now. I am very happy about the successful progress of the initiative and I always enjoy opening the two new cupboards of clean structured games, puzzles, and every object that is helpful for lessons for the diversely abled children. Because we are all working for them, above all. All together in Baby Sarah’s Home to encourage children with a hard destiny. They deserve a life in dignity and respect with perspectives for a free future.”
Amely Burgstaller has been volunteering at a tribal school since August 2013. She teaches English, Arts and Sports, amongst others. Following is a testimonial she sent to us regarding a school field trip she arranged for her students to Mysore.
“In December, I started fund raising in Germany. Finally I was happy about the big amount of money donated by friends and relatives. Because of that, a trip with my school to Mysore was possible. In advance, the headmaster could organise a private bus and finally on December 21st, the adventure could start:
Early in the morning the teachers and I picked up the children at school. All the kids had dressed up and were happily shouting, especially when a Bollywood movie was shown in the bus. The first stop was the temple on top of Chamundi Hill in Mysore. There we took part in a pooja and took some nice pictures.
Afterwards we saw the Nandi statue close by. Here we sat down on walls and had breakfast. Then we went to the zoo. All the kids were happy by the variety of animals and the ice-cream. Afterwards, we had lunch and then we headed to the Mysore Palace including a tour through the whole building.
The next place we visited was the Bird Sanctuary near the city. All of us participated in a boat tour on a small lake. Many different kinds of birds can be seen there. Last but not least we stopped in Sirangpatnam and went to two temples. The kids enjoyed a lot and bought some nice souvenirs for their families. The day ended with a small dinner. On the way home, most of the children slept in the bus because of all the new impressions made on this day. It was an awesome day for the teachers, children and of course, me as well. For most of the children it was the first time in Mysore and they got to know many amazing places. This day will be a long lasting memory.”
Most of our long-term volunteers (LTV) live with Indian families during their time here. Often times, we hear experiences and feedback from our volunteers. This is our first ever testimony from a host family. Mrs. Kavya M.S. has been hosting LTVs since 2012 and has welcome 11 since then. She is well known in her community for doing charity work. She was born in 1978 in the Coorg district of Karnataka. She has two daughters; Amrutha Nayak and Anitha Nayak. Following is an account of her experiences and memories with LTVs.
“What makes INDIA proud?
Democracy, cricket, films, etc …
Sure. But Indians are also well known for treating guests.
I would like to share my experiences as much as possible about such guests like international volunteers!!
Till now we have welcomed 11 volunteers to our host family since 2012.
1st volunteer: Claire from France
She was generous .She stayed with us for 3 months .When I was doing any work she always joined me .She did her project very successfully in Hunsur. She liked our culture and food. She wore our traditional dress; saree. She looked Indian. Before going she cried a lot, she offered many chocolate and gifts to us. Recently she married her beloved boyfriend Stephan and she sent a wedding card to us. I was so happy with her for 3 months. She is still in contact with us. She is the best of the best.
2nd volunteers: Anna and Rebecca from Germany
They were true friends and lenient. When they came to my home, I was not there. I was so tensed about them, but they are really good girls. They participated in all the festivals which we celebrated. They are good dancers also, because they danced when we celebrated Ganesha Chaturthi festival. They gave me a lot of German chocolates. Sometimes they came late during night time. I was never angry, I just treated them like my daughter and I guided them on how to be in India. Rebecca cried a lot when she left our home and she came back from the bus stand to say bye to my family. Anna went as an Indian girl. They were beautiful girls. My daughter had a nail polish craze. So Anna sent many colorful nail polishes from Germany and also letters and chocolates. I still remember my cat always went to her room and she slept in her bed. I think my cat misses her. Even my family also misses them.
3rd volunteers: Kara and Cornelia from Germany and Austria
They were gleaming girls. In Kannada kara means spicy, but Kara was very sweet with us. On the 13th of January, 2013 she came to my home. The 14th of January is Makara Sankranti festival. We went to the temple with Kara. On that day we were so happy. She started her project in Spoorthi Samsthe. She was a good teacher. She presented bangles and earrings to my daughter for her birthday. She was taking care of her mother. Her mother was sick. So she went to her country so early. And she took her mother to Kerala for Ayurvedic treatment. And also she came to my father’s house in Coorg. She liked my native place and she liked my farm house, a small pond, chirping birds, cows and small calf, hens, dog, cat etc. She took some photos with my father. My relatives were very happy.
Then about Cornelia (Conny) – She was always a happy and flawless girl. Sometimes she was angry with us. She was knowledgeable and knew how to communicate with people. She liked to travel every day. She lost my daughter’s bicycle and on that day, she cried. But I told her don’t worry about that. She visited my cousin’s marriage. She was teaching spoken English to students in Spoorthi Samsthe. She celebrated Mothers day with my daughters and Anju. She was a good dancer, singer and also a very good musician. When she got bored or happy, she used to play her guitar. Her favorite dish was tomato sambar with rice. We went to GRS Fantasy Park with her. When she left our home she cried, she hugged me in the bus stand. She misses me so much, and we miss her too.
Next was Karo and Male from Germany
They only stayed for a month. On her second day, Male went for a wedding function with my daughter to Hassan. Both wore red coloured t-shirts. She was surprised about the Kannada wedding food style. My daughter taught her how to eat the food. She liked our special sweet obbattu. They were silent and sweet girls.
Amanda Paseen and Pia Winter from Finland and Germany
What do I say about Amanda (Amppu). There are no words to describe her. She is a really, really good and beautiful girl. I didn’t know about Finland, but she explained everything about her country to me. She is also good dancer and musician. She loves our culture and traditional clothes. She purchased many sarees for herself. Amppu was the first girl who called me Amma. I was so happy. She learned Kannada perfectly. She was always listening Ashiqui 2 songs (Tun hi ho). Sometimes she told me, “Amma I’m always hungry”. It meant she liked our food style. She brought toys for our cat and dog. She looked like a Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone when she wore the saree. She presents Garnier shampoo and face wash to my daughter for Christmas. They celebrated Christmas in Goa. At exactly 12 o’clock she called to wish me a Happy New Year. I was so happy, even my friends hadn’t wished me. Her mother stayed for two days in my home. Her mom is also very active and interesting. I just miss her… I love you Amppu.
Pia, Ya! She is also a nice girl. She presented a doll and some toys to us before she left. We dropped her to the bus stand. She was nice!!
Camille and Jana from France and Germany
She was a motivated girl. She looked very beautiful and ideal. Travelling was the happiest journey for her. She didn’t like spicy food. So I tried to cook food which was not spicy. She was a contemporary dancer. Sometimes she taught me her dance. It is very interesting. She looks very thin. After her weekend she was sick. She was tired and had skin burns from the 50°C in Hampi. She also had a fever and low blood pressure. She had to be admitted in Columbia Asia Hospital. After three days, she was better and relaxed. When she was in the hospital, she texted me, “Thank you so much for everything you have done. You are a really good mum!!” When I saw the message I was very happy. She was the small child for me!
Everyone desires to be loved and also to have freedom, so I left them free in my home. All the volunteers are really good, sometimes they were angry with us, but it is okay, because they left their parents for a long time. Then I tried to be a good host mother to them. Some put nose rings as Indian girls do. I liked their destiny and determination – everyone succeeded at their projects. I really enjoyed my time with them and I learned a lot of things from them. My children got a lot of knowledge about other countries and how to communicate with others. All the volunteers are good and humble. All the best to volunteers and achieve your goal. God bless you. I miss them so much. Still I have contact with them. They send me letters. Then Jana, wow! She was a loyal girl. Such a nice and kind hearted girl she was. Every day she used to ask me “How was the day today?” She showed us her family photos. It is a really nice family. She lives in a joint family. There are 59 members in her family.
A small poem for volunteers!
I am the one you crushed
with the weight of custom and tradition
that light cannot be hidden in darkness.
Now, I’m successful as a good host mother. I’m really thankful to FSL-India to giving this good opportunity.
Every year, all FSL-India staff members come together for an annual staff meet. From the 20th of May to the 22nd of May, staff members from all offices; Bangalore, Kundapura, Mysore, Chennai and Pondicherry met at Fireflies Ashram, just outside Bangalore city.
Facilitating all the excitement was a team of three from Educators Collective. The staff annual meet is a chance for the FSL-India family to get-together, meet new staff members, reflect on our work, engage in team-building and communication exercises, and so much more. This was done by experiential learning methods such as games, nature walks, painting and live discussions.
The last day of the annual meet was held at the Bangalore office where everyone went through FSL-India‘s journey from its birth till now, and took part in strategic planning exercises for the future of our projects. With the annual meet now over, FSL-India is now re-energized and motivated for the year ahead of us!